Lotus Esprit V8 | Spotted
Nearly 20 years since the last one was made, nothing draws a crowd like the original Lotus supercar
By Matt Bird / Sunday, 12 March 2023 / Loading comments
PH has been getting very excited about Lotus of late, what with the S1 Elise being named our best sports car of the last 25 years, the first Emiras reaching customers and the electric future shaping up nicely. We’ve even found time to put together a Europa buying guide.
All of which has inevitably had us thinking about other Lotuses, and it’s impossible to consider Lotus for anything more than five seconds without remembering its longest-lived model of all: the Esprit. It probably isn’t the most famous Lotus of all anymore (not least with the most recent honour bestowed on the Elise), but that incredible production will never be beaten. The Esprit went through more changes in its 28 years than the Elise did in its 25 – it began life with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and ended with a twin-turbo V8, for starters – but almost 30 years in production suggests something went right. Stunning looks (most famously from the pen of Giugiaro to being with, but also Peter Stevens and Julian Thomson later) allied to stonking performance and beautiful Lotus handling made the Esprit plenty of fans over the decades. It was a Hethel icon long before production ended in 2004.
Given the spotlight has been on the other models of late, it only seems right to reflect back on the Esprit for a minute. Which one to talk about, however, was a far trickier decision, because the really special ones are there all the way from the late 70s (think of 007’s S1) to the dawn of the 21st century and the awesome Sport 350. Which is to say nothing of the GT3, Essex Turbo and Turbo HCs that are also in the classifieds. Don’t forget the S4, either, or Sport 300, or Turbo SE, or…
This V8 Esprit is notable for both its spec – Ruby Red with magnolia was a special order very much worth the effort – as well as its low mileage tally of just 7,200. For a car now over 25 years old, that’s an incredible figure. It’s supported by the MOT certificates, moreover, all the way back to 2000. Even more amazingly, both owners of this Lotus lived in Frome; the first, having bought it from Haydon Cars Lotus new, owned it until 2008, and the second had the car until last year. Now there’s an opportunity to be just the third owner, and maybe even take the Esprit through the heady heights of 10,000 miles.
Predictably, such a low mileage Lotus looks utterly superb, a real time warp example if you’ll excuse the cliché. Nothing seems to show any wear at all, pointing to more than a quarter of a century of very considerate use. Presumably, this wasn’t so much a high days and holidays car as the occasional high day and every other holiday at best, very slowly (but very stylishly) accruing the miles since the late 1990s.
The as-new condition makes this Esprit the most expensive V8 currently available, at £69,995. Yet Esprits always look undervalued against its contemporaries, an affliction that’s lasted years now and probably has some roots in the engine’s reliability woes. Consider this for some context: a Ferrari F355 of a similar age and mileage might cost £100,000 more than the Lotus, while a Honda NSX of this money has another 100,000 miles on it. We won’t even talk about air-cooled 911s. Those cars have soared in value of late and the Esprit has appreciated on a much shallower trajectory, a fate that seems a little unfair. Quite what Esprit values will do as Lotus embarks on its EV journey is anyone’s guess. This one will most certainly remain a very special example, though, whether the next owner wants to get behind the wheel – or just stand and stare.
SPECIFICATION | LOTUS ESPRIT V8
Engine: 3,498cc, twin-turbo V8
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],250rpm
First registered: 1997
Recorded mileage: 7,200
Price new: £58,750 (1996)
Yours for: £69,995
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